Artificial Blood: In a Blood Bank Near You?

News broke yesterday of British Scientists with Wellcome Trust having successfully manufactured Red Blood Cells from Stem Cells.

The Stem Cells these scientists used are actually “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” and as the article states, means they were cells that have been “rewound” back to become stem cells. Now for those of you who know your Hematopoesis charts, you know how Blood Cells are formed. For those who don’t, here’s a short review chart:

Hematopoesis

From this you can see that White Blood Cells (Myeloid), Red Blood Cells (Erythroid) and Platelets all come from a common progenitor cell. One could glean from this that we are perhaps not far off from having synthetically grown Platelets and WBCs that could be created a patient’s own cells or from a cell line without antigens present on the surface.

Benefits to this would be a completely reduced risk of HLA incompatibilities from Platelets or WBCs present in blood products as well as the ability to produced antigen compatible red cell units for patients with multiple antibodies.

Of course the other benefit would be having more blood available due to not having to rely on the generosity of donors to keep the blood supply well stocked. This would also reduce the amount of testing required on blood units and perhaps even increase the longevity of units!

More Links on Artificial Blood:

How Stuff Works

Romanian Scientist on Artificial Blood

-K

Important Mail and Exam Study Tips

On March 31st I received that fateful envelope from the CSMLS letting me know I passed the General MLT Exam – officially making me a Medical Laboratory Technologist! I’m excited to be able to put another set of letters behind my name ;)

It's Good!

It’s Good! I PASSED!

I’m sure my apartment mail man was annoyed at my stalking his van everyday and leaving work on my break to frantically drive home and check the mail. I honestly was overwhelmed with anxiety once I saw friends receiving their letters letting them know they passed! The next time I have to receive results by mail I’m going to move to that city so I can receive them faster (ok, maybe not) but I’m thrilled that I can finally say I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

 

Now for those of you writing in the near future you are probably thinking “shut up! get to the exam study tips!” And I will. But I want to put a disclaimer that you have to remember to take how you study into consideration. Some people prefer to study alone, some people like to write their own notes etc. You have to know you the best and structure your studying time wisely! First, I’m going to answer some questions I know I had before I started studying for the CSMLS exam.

When did you start studying?

It’s tough to say when exactly I started studying but I *officially* started studying with my planned method every night January 10th for my exam on February 20th. I was in clinical from September 3rd – February 7th and during this time I took my notes with me to the lab and studied during downtimes as well as I studied occasionally at night.

What did you use as a study guideline?

Print this out, frame it, make copies of it, tape it to walls – whatever you need to do to know it. The CSMLS Exam Handbook has the exact percentages of what types of questions you can expect to see. Obviously it’s not going to say “5 questions on Salmonella” but it does break down which concepts you can expect like QC, safety, transfusion application questions etc.

How did you structure your studying?

I laid out a calendar with what subject I would be studying each night per week. By January I knew which subjects I would need to be studying more than others. For me, Micro, Heme and Transfusion were my strong subjects (especially since I was ending my clinical on Transfusion) so I focused less on those topics and more on Chemistry, Histology, Lab Math and the Safety Manual.

Ensuring your studying is structured will help prevent yourself from getting too focused on one subject. You have to remember that the exam covers EVERYTHING and just because you might know one subject really well that doesn’t mean you should forget the other ones. In the same vein, you have to sometimes decide what you can and cannot learn in that amount of time. I know I had to forgo reviewing some topics because it was a lost cause at that point.

Nifty Study Calendar

Nifty Study Calendar

I highly recommend getting yourself a small calendar, printing one off the internet or getting a small flip pad to keep yourself organized and on track. I picked up this little flip pad for $1 at Target and it was one of my best purchases!

What were your study techniques?

Again, this is what worked for me and may not work for you.

First, I consolidated my notes into my own words on study sheets. This is a patented “Krista” method (even my classmates know that’s how I study) that I’ve been using since university and helps me digest more information quickly. I turn large PowerPoints into short form notes with key points I need to know rather than having to flip through the 107 slides per lecture we are given. This also makes me write out the information in my own words and hopefully helps it stick in my memory.

Second, I used cue cards to make small note books with testing information, reference ranges and even SHORTER versions of my study notes so I could carry a lot of information with me at once and use them as memory joggers. These were usefully as I got closer to the exam and just needed to refresh my memory or locate information quickly.

2 of my many cue card sets!

2 of my many cue card sets!

I also used the QUICK REVIEW CARDS (which are finally coming out with a new edition this year!). These things are magic and if you don’t want to consolidate your notes yourself I highly highly recommend them. They really have almost everything you should need to study everything except Histology since they are US cards for the ASCP exam. I did a full in-depth review last year which you can check out here.

Lastly, I studied with two classmates that I studied with during my 2nd semester of school via Google Hangouts. We all lived in different cities so doing it online was the best way and also allowed us to have all our notes with us without having to haul them to the library. I’ve talked about Google Hangouts before  and how I used them successfully to raise my grades and I’m a huge advocate for it.

We quizzed each other using our notes, quiz sets from Laboratory Review Books and LabCE.com, where you can play a free quiz game. Keep in mind LabCE is an American site so some of the questions are a little off but generally it’s a pretty good tool.

It has been shown in many studies that quizzing helps you to retain information better than you would without quizzing. It’s helping you to apply the knowledge you’ve learned and actually think about what you’ve read rather than just reciting it back. Another benefit to studying with others is they might have a stronger grasp on a concept than you and vice versa. You can help each other out and think of things in different ways which is only going to help you in the end!

At the end of all the studying when I got to the exam I felt very prepared and actually felt like I had *over-studied* some things. I was expecting questions on a few things that I didn’t see but there was the occasional surprise as well! The one thing to keep in mind is that if you’ve made it through your entire program and through clinical you are almost all the way there of being prepared.  You know more than you think you know and with proper studying and time management you can pass the exam too!

Congrats to those who passed and good luck to those writing!

-Krista, B.Sc, MLT

(Sorry I had to!)

Starting your Career: Searching for Jobs in the Lab

You’ve graduated, written the CSMLS exam and are now looking for your first job in the lab – but where to look? During my search over the past month, I’ve come across some handy tips and hints to help maximize your success and hopefully find that dream job you’ve worked so hard to obtain!

1. Your Clinical Site

If you’ve made it this far, then you had to have gone through clinical somewhere. Hopefully you’ve made a good impression and maybe you were already offered a job before you left which is great! But in some areas, the clinical sites are in a high demand area meaning they are not begging you to stay – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job there! Since you did your placement you area already a step ahead on training a new hire.  Make sure to keep in touch with your clinical supervisor or department manager and let them know about your exam status. Most want to know how their past students are doing anyways. In this email or in person visit, make sure to forward a resume if you’re looking for employment.

2. Your School Career Fair

Most schools offer a career fair towards the end of the school year where a slew of employers come looking for new grads just like you. If you are employable or soon to be employed you are their prime target and can get a lot of great face time with an HR rep where you can ask questions you might not be able to ask if you were to apply online.

Tips for the career fair:

  • Dress well. No need to wear a suit but don’t look like you rolled out of bed.
  • Look at the list of attendees BEFORE you go so you know who you want to talk to and can plan accordingly.
  • Get a nice folder to keep resumes and any business cards you might get.
  • Prepare company specific cover letters for those you want to leave a resume with and prepare cover letter and resume packages for them specifically.
  • Bring extra copies of resumes and generic cover letters in case there is a new exhibitor or person to leave one with.
  • Ask questions! If someone isn’t hiring ask when they might be or how you can go about finding opportunities online.

3. Job Search Engines

Two of my favourite search engines I’ve been using have been indeed.ca and simplyhired.ca.

Indeed saves your 6 most recent searches and will alert you when there is a new posting the next time you visit. You can also set up email alerts for certain areas and job titles so you don’t miss anything! I find using a combination of searches for “Medical Laboratory Technologist” and “Laboratory” gives me piece of mind I haven’t missed anything.

Indeed Search

Example of Indeed Searches

Simplyhired.ca seems to find the job postings that Indeed can’t. They will alert me if a job positing is new within the last few days while Indeed will flag them as duplicates even though it’s a new job posting just for a job with the sample title. Using them in combination will maximize your chances of finding that dream job!

4. Hospital/Lab Specific Career Site

If you really have your heart set on working at a certain hospital or lab it’s best to also look straight from the source – their own careers page. Jobs can often be posted here before job search engines or also might slip through the cracks and not be posted to search engine at all! Once on the site, you might have the ability to pick what department you are looking for a job in but sometimes it’s best to select all jobs in case one was coded into the wrong department.

Example: The St.Michael’s Hospital Website

St.Mike's Careers

 

For a Public Health lab, Canadian Blood Services, or private lab, you can go straight to their site to see all their offering for the entire company.

5. LinkedIn

If you haven’t made a LinkedIn yet – MAKE ONE NOW! I talk about how to maximize your profile in my post on LinkedIn from earlier this year. LinkedIn is a great way to network with people you might not normally be able to talk to and can help expand your world of opportunities to jobs you might have not thought of! Some companies such as Canadian Blood Services and Public Health Ontario are even allowing you to apply with your LinkedIn profile so it’s a good idea to create one now!

Make connections with classmates, professors, lab directors and companies you might be interested in. They might know of a position coming up at their lab they can recommend you for or post jobs for friends in the lab community. Keeping a presence on LinkedIn can help you get ahead and be alerted to these postings or you can contact a lab director  yourself and ask if they might know of a position becoming available.

Along with jobs, LinkedIn can help you keep tabs on what the labs and hospitals are doing so if you have an interview you are able to speak confidently with their current direction.

6. Professional Association Site

The CSMLS and your provincial regulatory bodies (CMLTO, CMLTA, CMLTM etc) are another great place to check for postings. Quite often labs will go their first to give members an opportunity to apply before posting a position to the general public. It allows them to get certified members looking at their postings right away – usually meaning a better pool of candidates for them. I’ve put some handy links below for a few regulatory bodies job sites!

CSMLS Job Board – available once you log in to your account

CMLTO Job Board - Ontario

BCSLS Job Board - BC

SSMLT Job Board - Saskatchewan

I know the job search can be overwhelming – trying to make sure you see every posting and applying immediately so you don’t miss out. Hopefully this helps on your job search to make the best of it and to start your career as a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

-K

The CSMLS Exam – The End is Here!

Just a few weeks ago, On Thursday February 20th, 2014 I wrote my CSMLS certification exam. The last 2.5 years of my life have been building up this exam so I can finally work as a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

The morning of I was quite nervous to write the exam. I can’t remember how many times I checked to make sure I had packed my exam letter and ID with me en route to the exam.  I was staying with a friend so thankfully we had each other to calm down and try to remain sane. I was happy to write the exam back at my “home” base of the Michener gym where I had written many Med Lab exams over the past few years! Once we got there everything seemed to happen so fast – we went into the gym quickly to write and the next thing I knew we were tearing open our exam packages to write!

I imagine some students who are reading my blog are like me, and want to know the exact steps for the entire exam (ie: the registration, opening packages etc) so they feel prepared. I am a big visualizer and like to imagine my steps up to when I will be putting pen to paper to help me feel calm and ready. For those students here is how my exam day went down and please keep in mind the details will be different for each exam centre/day.

  • My exam started 9am so I arrived at the school for 8:30am. On my exam letter it specified I would be writing in the gym so I went and waited in the line of students with my exam day admission letter and my photo ID.
  • I was then checked in by last name by presenting my photo ID and exam letter and signed my name.
  • You placed any bags, notes, jackets, pens, pencils etc on the side of the room once you entered the gym.
  • Sit in any seat that had an exam package on the desk. The CSMLS supplied a mechanical pencil and calculator inside the envelope which you get to keep (woo!) after the exam.
Your very fancy calculator gift from the CSMLS

Your very fancy calculator gift from the CSMLS

  • Instructions were given out by the invigilators and at 9am you ripped open your package and began to write.
  • The first portion of the exam was 3 hours from 9am-12pm and the second portion was 1pm to 3:30pm. You are permitted to leave when you are finished unless it is the last 15 minutes, which then you are required to stay until the period is up.
  • When you are finished your exam you put EVERYTHING into the 2nd envelope, and I mean everything (at least that’s what we were told). The original envelope, trash etc. I used the check list provided on the bottom of the admission to the exam letter to make sure I put everything in the envelope. Then hand it in!
  • You’re done!

I cannot and will not disclose any information about the exam content due to confidentiality agreements signed. I do feel however the exam was what I expected and I left feeling “okay” about the whole thing. I don’t want to be overconfident so talk to me in a few weeks when I get my results and I can let you know how I feel then!

Once I get my results back I will do a “what I used to study” post to hopefully help answer any questions on what I used to prepare. I feel like I can’t write that post with authority without knowing if I passed or not.

If you wrote the exam in February, I hope you did well and wish you all the best entering the job market!

-K

Quest to the CSMLS Exam

Today officially marks 3 weeks, 2 days until I write the CSMLS exam. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I go through moments of panic and moments of calm depending on what subject I’m studying that day.  I can’t wait to write then start my search for a job!

I was asked for tips on studying and if I could share my notes by a reader last week. Unfortunately, I don’t have any notes available to share as I handwrite all of mine out but I recommend checking out the Quick Review Cards on Amazon as they summarize everything well. If I knew the secret to studying I would definitely share it!

If you are writing on February 20th, I wish you all the best of luck as well. I look forward to seeing you out in the lab!

-K

Wound Swabs and Blood Smears

If you are aware of my clinical schedule (which very few of you are), you probably have realized I have gone through 2 disciplines without blogging about them. No, I have not forgotten about blogging! With changing clinical shifts and studying for the exam, this got put on the back burner for a bit but I’m back now!

Me in my natural state

Hematology was my rotation after histology and it was amazing. I have always enjoyed hematology but never to the extent I did at Clinical. I started by running CBCs and coags for the first two weeks on machines I was fairly familiar with, the Coulter LH750 and the ACL-Top. I think that really helped my confidence with being able to troubleshoot, run QC and check patient samples. The last two weeks I spent on the diff bench looking at patient slides.

After two days, I graduated from the training slides to the batches of patient slides (under supervision of course). I don’t know why but as I put the first slide under my microscope I started to panic. I have done thousands of slides at this point in my school career but this first patient slide sent me into a tailspin of worry. Would I know what the morph? THERE ARE NO ANSWER FOR ME TO CONFIRM WITH! I think I took 20 minutes just to do red cell morph (it was an Iron Deficient Anemia) but when I showed my instructor and she gave me the thumbs up my confidence returned. I was able to read slides with easy and had a number of great slides including identifying a new Hairy Cell Leukemia case. I had to do a slide test at the end of my rotation and passed with flying colours!

The end of October ushered in my birthday (yay!) as well as my new rotation in Microbiology. I really have nothing but great things to say about this rotation as well. For some reason, micro just sticks and makes sense to me. Well, it might be because I have a degree in it but overall I find I am able to understand and memorize bacteria well. My first experience was on the throat bench which was a nice bench to start with – I’m only looking for one bacteria (or am I?). I was able to get my feet wet and get ready for the more intensive benches. Speaking of intensive benches, I was on the others bench next which required a LOT of knowledge of many different body sites, normal flora and pathogens. I saw a lot of Klebsiella, Citrobacter, Pseudomonas and Staph, Staph, Staph. I made ASTs until my arms were tired. My vitek-ing skills from school came in handy as I was the go-to person to help with the hundreds of viteks they do a day.

This is how I examine all plates of Staph. No gloves, no lab coat, no worries.

I also did a day on the fertility bench doing Post-Vascetomy and Fertility testing on semen samples. I never thought this is something I’d be doing but, there I was! It was really interesting to see how involved fertility testing is and how many different factors you need to look at.

I’m currently in Chemistry doing my 2nd last rotation and I’m learning a lot about the large modular line instruments and TDM. Can’t wait to do a blog post about that in a few weeks!

In other news, I am in the Member Spotlight on the new ASCP OneLab website! I was asked to blog about my experience at the ASCP 2013 Chicago Meeting so I  encourage you to head over and give it a read here. Thanks to all my readers for their support!

-K

Calling all Michener Alumni!

Hello again blog!

You’re probably wondering where I’ve been for the past month and a bit! I’ve been busy working on studying for the board exam (on February 21st!) and completing my clinical practicum. I just finished hematology and I am now in Microbiology for 4 weeks. It’s been exciting and I’ve had the chance to learn a lot – a blog post coming in the near future.

In the meantime, I wanted to get the word out for a great event being held at The Michener Institute.  The Med Lab Students’ Society and Alumni Association are holding a Networking event for 2nd and 3rd year students and alumni to connect and ask questions about the job market, field experience and how to be successful after graduation.  The event is on November 14th from 5:30-7pm at Michener. If you are an alumni who would be interested in attending and help to prepare the future workforce please email alumni@michener.ca. I know we would love to have as many people as possible to share their experiences!

-K

hEr_Volution Workshop – How it went and how you can get involved!

When I was seven years old, I received a microscope for Christmas from my parents. I used to play with it for hours on end – looking at the slides of bugs and bacteria that came with the set. From that point on, I was hooked and knew I wanted to have a future career in science. I had many great teachers through out my school years and family that cultivated that curiosity into a passion.

Unfortunately, some girls do not get that opportunity to grow and explore science due to limited access and social pressures. I knew I wanted to use my positive experience as a woman in Medical Laboratory Science to mentor girls to consider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers as an option in the future. In my travels on Twitter, I came across hEr_Volution, an organization promoting STEM education in Canada to female students. Immediately, I reached out to see how I could be involved with them and promote what they were doing.  After having a great phone conversation with Doina, the Executive Director of hEr_Volution, I was invited to host a workshop about my experience.

On August 24th, I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop for hEr_Volution at the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Shopping Centre.  I was able to speak about my experience as a Medical Laboratory Science student at The Michener Institute as well as provide insight to how vaccines are made and how medical testing is done.  For a lot of younger children, this area is not touched in school until high school and it was great to be able to expose them to this line of work early on.  I also included a fun hands-on activity to make “candy DNA” to teach the girls about the structure and function of DNA molecules!

The Science of Cures 4

Workshop attendees included young girls between the ages of 5-12 and also Toronto area educators that were looking how to further their knowledge about the Medical field. I had some great discussions on how to teach DNA techniques and testing to younger students in a concept then understand. Any opportunity to get science into schools in a fun way is something I support!

SmallWorkshopGroupPhoto

Myself with Executive Director Doina Oncel with her daughters Sarah and Maya.

I am honoured I was able to represent Medical Laboratory Science and female scientists to encourage girls to consider STEM careers.  I strongly encourage you to get involved in your community and to visit hervolution.org to find out more about their work.

My Education Story with Rogers Youth Education Day #BrighterFuture

As many people do after high school, I went through the motions of starting University – hoping to find something I connect with for a future career. I always knew I would be in the science field in some way, I just didn’t know what exactly that would entail.

During my second year of University, I was taking a number of labs in Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry with Teaching Assistants (TAs) due to the larger class sizes. Some of the TAs aren’t as invested in the class as others so when you find a good one, you stick with them. I was placed in Misty’s lab section during my first semester and knew she was someone I would look up to for the rest of my career life. She was a Ph.D student in Biochemistry and was also a soccer player on the side. As one of the only women studying in her field and her passion for science, she truly had a profound effect on how I viewed my own future science career. I saw that the possibilities were there if I wanted to them, it just takes a little hard work.

After I graduated with my Bachelor of Science, I did not want to stop my education there. I felt unfulfilled, like there was more out there for me to learn. I decided to go back to school at The Michener Institute to obtain my diploma in Medical Laboratory Sciences and every day I thank myself for making that decision. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of opportunities I have been presented with during my time at Michener, including working with Rogers Social Insiders. I have been able to attend multiple conferences as a student, connect with industry professionals and work with organizations on STEM outreach. My decision to further my education has greatly changed my life and has allowed me see how valuable life long learning is.

The amazing thing is – anyone can have the same journey I had but unfortunately many do not due to lack of funding or accessibility to technology. On September 25th, Rogers is holding Rogers Youth Education Day  to help fund mobile tech units across the country to help youth get the skills and experience they need to excel inside the classroom and beyond. These units will each contain 5 tablets, a Rocket™ mobile hotspot and LTE connectivity provided by Rogers and you can help make that happen.

Here’s where my readers come in. Each tweet on September 25th (TODAY!) using #BrighterFuture or share of a photo on Rogers Facebook page will donate $1 towards these mobile tech units being brought across the country.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can support this wonderful cause to help the youth of today succeed.

I’ve made it easy for you, click on this link to send out a tweet to donate $1! 

Gallbladders, Microtomy and an Upcoming Trip!

My first week of clinical is done! It was definitely a week of firsts. I am in Histology this month and went though the first few days shadowing the Lab Assistants to see the flow of work, how specimens are processed and received. It was nice to get eased into the work rather than thrown to the wolves in the first few minutes! Here are some noteworthy things I was able to do this week:

1) I grossed skin specimens (for the first time) for processing. It was interesting to learn about the different types of specimens and how they differ when being grossed. Excisions, shaves and punches all have different methods and needs. It also depends if there are stitches in the tissue or if they are suspecting melanoma. It might sound boring to the average person but it’s amazing how much goes into making sure the appropriate samples are taken for diagnosis.

2) I got to cut open a gall bladder that was filled with a huge 25mm stone. The gall bladder was about 3X the size of a “typical” gallbladder and the person much have been in tremendous pain as there was also a stone lodged in the neck. Key note: It’s important to make sure you squeeze all the bile out before cutting… it can get a bit messy.

3) I started microtomy this weekend. Yes, the dreaded microtomy… but you know what? Everything went well! The wax was good, the tissues were soft and the blades were sharp. I am a little rusty but I was able to cut 60 slides in just over 3 hours today on my 2nd day, which I was happy with. 90% of the blocks require serials with most being 3x so they are more time-consuming than a 1x block.  Apparently I have a static issue because a few of the ribbons were sticking to my hands so I need to figure out if I carry some kind of mystical charge that causes this issue. I had problems with static in my school’s microtomy lab but figured it was just the environment… apparently it’s me! Perhaps I will need to ground myself before cutting next time or I’ll have to pick up one of those “ion” bracelelts.

An accurate photo plus being me being coated in wax.

Lastly, I was awarded a OneLab Travel Grant from the American Society of Clinical Pathology to attend the 2013 General Meeting in Chicago! I blogged about the conference earlier this year when they announced that Hillary Clinton will be the Keynote speaker and my dream to attend.  I applied for the grant on a whim thinking I wouldn’t have a chance as a international member but I am thrilled I was selected!  I’ll be missing a few days of my clinical for the conference as it’s from Sept 18-21st, which is why I have been working at the lab this past weekend to make up time. It’s worth giving up some of my weekends to have such a great opportunity. I’m really doing the conference circuit this year since I went to LabCon2013 in back in May.

If you want to follow along, I’ll of course being tweeting using @MedLabMaven and @kurchenko. You can also follow the hashtag #ASCP13 on Twitter and Facebook. They will be livecasting some of the events so I recommend heading over to their Facebook page to see which ones you can catch!

Also, if you’re going to be at the ASCP conference, feel free to reach out and perhaps we can connect!

-K